Yesterday we featured career advice from Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, TIME editors and authors of The Presidents Club. Today we’ll showcase how they managed to research and write their book about the world’s most exclusive fraternity in addition to having a day job.
Their book five years and as Gibbs points out, this meant working on weekends, during personal time, whenever it could be squeezed in. For those of us with intense schedules and a passion project on the to-do list, take note. Gibbs explains:
“We have day jobs so we pushed the deadline back a year at some point when we realized we were never going to finish. It was really fun to do. It was a wonderufl, I looked forward to Saturday coming and being able to just getting lost in the 1950s. It was really fun so it did not feel work.”
In addition to carving time to make this book a reality, the authors split their responsibilities. She adds, “By and large because Duffy has a tremendously rich rolodex, I did the dead presidents and he did the living ones. And then we swapped chapters, read the entire thing aloud to each other over the phone which is sort of our writing process. It’s how we hear what the language sounds like, we’ve been doing this together for TIME for so long, someone starts, sends it off, they work on it, sends it back, so it felt very natural.”
Plus, they’ve already co-authored another book together so their system works very well. “She and I have written hundreds of stories together so we have a pretty good sense of what it takes to get something over the bar,” Duffy notes.
“We’ve written a book together before so we have a pretty good sense of what a book should do….And when you have 14 presidents, all of whom have had complicated and interesting and sometimes difficult relationships with other men, we wanted to look at them each individually. We wanted to show them how they’re different. And we wanted to show how they’re human because they’re fundamentally human beings.”
As for sources, working with sources sounded pretty organic in terms of fascinating insight into the presidents’ rituals, relationships and oh yes — rivalries.
Duffy adds, “It helps covering the White House under Clinton and Bush, so I know all the players and I’m still in touch with most of them all these years but I was a reporter in Washington starting with Carter so I really was around….so I in some ways had the easy part and Nancy had to deal with books and records and people who were dead, I think she had the harder job.”